Is Our Children Learning With Comics?
Delaware Online ran an article about the use of comic books and graphic novels in education. The article emphasizes what was once a shunned form of media is now being stocked in libraries and taken seriously.
Mat Dilts, a ninth-grade English teacher at Christiana High School had this to say:
We’re going toward a much more visual culture, a much more visual world, and comic books go right along with that. If this is a way to reach kids, this is the way we’ll go. And educationally, it’s very sound.
As noted, graphic novels are increasing interest in “classic” texts which are often hard to read and comprehend. The goal is to get kids to read, and comic books are helping to achieve that. To help with this trend resources like teachingcomics.org and comicsintheclassroom.net have been created. The New York City Comic Book Museum also offers a complete curriculum based around comic books.
The most profile case of comic books being used is an initiative started by the Maryland Department of Education five years ago. The goal was to bring comic books to the classroom and improve reading skills. Those involved say the initiative appears to be working. It was started through a partnership with the Disney Education Productions and distributed toolkits to schools that included guides for the teacher and classic comics featuring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
A 2006 follow-up study on the initiative by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, determined that motivation for reading was increased by the comic books, but also revealed that some teachers actually thought the books were too hard for their third- and fourth-grade readers.
Some said leading into the initiative, it’d “dumb things down.” That’s clearly not the case according to studies.
Joe Murray, owner of Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark sums it up nicely:
Comic books are the only form of entertainment that uses both sides of the brain simultaneously, the cognitive and creative, the left side and the right side of the brain.